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Commentary: Smoking Older (Cigars)

23 Sep 2014

aging-cigars-rack

With the recent announcement about General Cigar acquiring Toraño’s brands, it seemed like the perfect time to light up the oldest cigar in my humidor: an Exodus 1959 Silver Edition Churchill from 2005.

I didn’t set out to age it. It’s just a remnant from a box I bought shortly after we moved to Florida that I never got around to smoking. There may even be one or two more that I just haven’t run across. Though I enjoyed the Silver a lot, it—like a lot of other smokes—simply fell off my radar as newer cigars came along.

So, how was it? What did all that time do?

Well, as I so often end up with aged cigars, I’m not really sure. Obviously, I like the line. Back in 2006, I gave another Silver vitola four stogies. I liked this one, too. I just cannot say with any certainty that age had a lot to do with it.

I don’t recall enough details from smoking it before to make a legitimate comparison. That’s my biggest problem with long-term aging. I’m not disciplined or detail-oriented enough to do it properly.

In this case, the one thing that stood out was the Criollo wrapper’s pre-light aroma, a warm mesquite fragrance I don’t remember. Otherwise, I can’t say how much difference there was in the mild- to medium-strength and the flavors.

Another cigar I smoked recently had experienced considerably less aging, so it’s easier for me to gauge the impact of time. I have about a third of a box of Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Toros (6 x 54) coming up on a year of age. I smoked several shortly after buying the box, then occasionally. It has been a few months since I last had one of the Broadleaf-wrapped cigars. As with the Toraño Silver, I like the Reserva from My Father, having awarded it a nearly perfect rating in 2010.

The year of aging seems to have served it well, smoothing out any hints of harshness without reducing the power and melding the flavors into a terrific balance. In short, a great experience.

In this case, the humidor time did improve the cigar. Now, if I could just develop enough self-discipline to age more cigars the right way, perhaps I’d have more great smokes.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Viaje White Label Project PL TB#7

20 Sep 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The latest in Viaje’s White Label Project—which releases cigars that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t otherwise get marketed—is a Nicaraguan puro petite lancero (6 x 40) that absolutely hits the spot. Opening with a strong pepper blast, the $8.32 cigar shifts in the second third to flavors of earth, leather, and sweetness. Then the pepper comes back into the mix in the final third as the sweetness drops away. Excellent construction, smoke production, draw, and burn. With a run of only 300 bundles, keep your eyes peeled.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Quick Smoke: La Palina Goldie Laguito Especial

13 Sep 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

On a recent trip, I was surprised to spot this limited edition on a cigar store shelf. Naturally, I couldn’t resist, even at $19. Goldie has achieved something of a cult status since La Palina released the first edition 2012. I never had that one, or the Goldie that came out in 2013. If they were as tasty and elegant as this one, I understand all the praise. This lancero-shaped (7 x 40) smoke is, simply, wonderful—from the fantail head to the long ashes as it burns. If you can find one of the 25,000 that were released, don’t miss it.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch No. 5

8 Sep 2014

LGSBIf there’s a certainty about periodically released limited edition cigars, it’s that after the first there will be someone who contends that whatever one you’re smoking, it isn’t as good as one that came before.

Since few of us have smoked them all, that’s a difficult judgment to refute. Is this fifth Small Batch up to the standard of the previous four? I can’t say.

But judged on its own, this is an excellent smoke, created by Litto Gomez as part of his ongoing project to use dark, rough Pelo de Oro wrapper tobacco grown on his Dominican farm. The fifth in the series fits firmly in the La Flor Dominicana tradition of bold smokes that explode the stereotype of Dominican puros.

I got one big surprise in the 6.75-inch, 52 ring gauge stick: sweetness. You find it in the pre-light aroma and woven through the other flavors from beginning to the end. It creates a pleasant contrast.

Other flavors include cocoa, cedar, and coffee, though they’re all artfully blended so none is dominant. I found the burn to be fine on the sticks I’ve smoked, though the white ash is a bit flaky and I wouldn’t mind a bit more smoke production.

While the predominantly red band is typical in appearance to other Litto Gomez cigars, there’s at least one distinguishing feature. In tiny letters on one side is the designation “Puro SB-V,” as was done on the No. 4 earlier.

Released late last year and limited to about 25,000 cigars packed in boxes of 105 and retailing individually for about $20, the No. 5 is no longer easy to find. But it’s well worth seeking out if you’re a fan of strong smokes.

I also think there’s good potential for aging. So even though I only bought a five-pack, I plan to hold on to a couple and check them out in a year or two. For the present, though, I rate this cigar four stogies.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: My Father Connecticut Toro

6 Sep 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

My Father Connecticut Toro

One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Don Pepín Garcia’s riff on an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper does not disappoint. With Nicaraguan Habano-Criollo filler and a Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 binder—both grown on the Garcias’ farms—this caramel-colored stick is a tasty treat. Considerably milder in strength than the typical Pepín creation, the Connecticut is, nonetheless, a complex cigar with a bit of the familiar pepper as well as plenty of sweetness, spice, and wood. This should please any cigar smoker, from beginners to those who chase the boldest blends.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: My Father Cigars

Book Review: Unlucky Strike – Private Health and the Science, Law and the Politics of Smoking

4 Sep 2014

unluckystrikeStaddon

If you’re involved in a fight over smoking restrictions or simply want to be well-armed when the topic comes up, Unlucky Strike is a book for you.

Written by Professor John Staddon (above right), a Duke University professor of psychology and biology, his aim is “a re-think and a redress” of society’s current views on smoking. He marshals a lot of argument, replete with footnotes and citations, in just over 100 pages.

That’s fitting for a scholar whose work has ranged from simulated detection of landmines to lectures on traffic control.

But the book is anything but a dry, academic tome. Whether exploring the limitations of epidemiology or dissecting the ins and outs of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, Staddon maintains a sharp focus, a sense of humor, and a conversational tone.

Here, for example, is his take on the effectiveness of banning cigarette advertising: “Dogs like to chase cats. Keeping them away from cats doesn’t help. The first time they see a cat, off they go. The only way to prevent chasing is to expose them to cats and train them not to chase. So it may be with tobacco.”

You’re as apt to run across a reference to comedians Laurel and Hardy as to epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll.

Nonetheless, this is a book that is unlikely to enjoy wide readership. And that might be OK if those who do read it include policy makers, legislators, scientists, and other researchers. Because whether one agrees with Staddon’s views on smoking, there’s no disputing his thoroughness and depth in presenting his case. It would help anyone keep the sort of open mind necessary to reach valid conclusions.

You can order Unlucky Strike online at Amazon.

-George E

photo credit: University of Buckingham Press

Cigar Review: Paul Garmirian Reserva Exclusiva Churchill

14 Aug 2014

Not long after I lit my first PG Reserva Exclusiva, I thought to myself, “I’ve found my newest favorite cigar.” It’s a smoke that you can get lost in and enjoy from beginning to end. And when you return for another, the journey begins again.

PG-reserva-exclusivaLike most Paul Garmirian cigars, the Reserva Exclusiva is created with well-aged tobaccos blended to bring out their flavors with just the right strength, which, in this case, I’d call medium. What set this cigar apart for me was the subtlety and complexity, along with a delicate finish that lingers lightly on the tongue.

The 7-inch, 48-ring gauge Churchills I’ve smoked were as consistent as a handmade product can be. Thick, rich smoke; fine, slow burn; even, deliberate draw. I paid about $11.50 for each one, a bargain, really, for a super-premium class cigar.

The filler is Dominican and Ecuadorian, with a Dominican binder and an Ecuadorian wrapper. According to the website, the tobaccos are 10 years old and they come in nine sizes.

Describing the flavors doesn’t do the cigar justice. It’s the way they intertwine and play off each other that creates the experience. Take just one component as an example: the grassiness frequently found in Dominican tobacco. In the Reserva Exclusiva it is never overpowering but rather comes and goes as a complement to the sharper and sweeter flavors, winding through them to produce something unique.

About seven years ago, one of my colleagues found the robusto (pictured) in this line a bit lacking. Perhaps he stumbled on a dud, or perhaps that vitola doesn’t match the Churchill. Or maybe our tastes for this line are just different. That wouldn’t be particularly surprising. After all, if everyone’s tastes were the same there wouldn’t be hundreds of different blends.

And, honestly, I’m not sure I would have been so enamored with the Reserva Exclusiva earlier in my cigar smoking days or later when I was drawn to ligero-laden powerhouses. I think I have become more attuned these days to smokes that repay attention, though I still enjoy a tasty strong cigar. Like the Opus I had the other week that beat me like a rented mule.

Right now, the Reserva Exclusiva is, for me, a great smoke. In fact, it gets my first five-stogie rating this year.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five-stogie rated cigars can be found here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys